Teachers bored by science lessons

14th March 2003 at 00:00
So no wonder pupils switch off. Karen Thornton reports on research that says curriculum is content-heavy...

TEACHERS find school science boring, so are not surprised that pupils are switched off by the subject, research reveals.

They blame the disjointed way in which the sciences are taught in secondaries for turning teenagers off choosing science, engineering and technology careers.

Elizabeth Allen, head of Newstead Wood school for girls, Orpington, Kent, told researchers: "The national curriculum for science is too content-heavy and very narrow in its academic focus and approach, particularly at key stage 3. The children feel it has no relevance to their lives - I don't find it motivating, I'm not surprised the majority of them don't either."

Dissatisfaction with the science curriculum is a key initial finding in the survey, carried out by Bath University for the Engineering Technology Board. Full results are due next month.

The findings come just days after Education Secretary Charles Clarke accused schools and industry of not doing enough to plug the skills gap.

The ETB points to a decline in the number taking science (except biology) and maths A-levels, while the number of registered engineers in industry is falling.

Dr Sa'ad Medhat, the ETB's director of education and professional development, said: "This will have increasingly serious consequences for the UK as it reduces the capability of universities and the private sector to carry out the research and development necessary to increase innovation."

All pupils have to take science and maths to 16, but A-level entries have generally fallen. Provisional figures for UK entries in chemistry last summer were 36,600, a fall of about 6,000 in 10 years.

Biology was up on the 1992 figure of nearly 49,000, to just over 52,000, but down from a peak of 57,000 in 1998. Provisional A-level entry figures for physics were down nearly a quarter on a decade ago, to 31,500 last summer.

A new hybrid GCSE, designed to be more appealing to teenagers than double science, is being piloted this year. Most theory will be dropped, in favour of information teenagers need to make sense of the world - for example, how energy is generated and used.

See www.etechb.co.uk

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